Benetech accelerates toward a future in which all digital content is Born Accessible
By Brad Turner, VP Global Literacy, Benetech
On November 29, 2016, Bookshare hit a momentous milestone when it passed the mark of 500,000 titles in its collection. That means that people unable to read standard print now have access to 500,000 ebooks in various formats to suit their individual needs.
It wasn’t that long ago that the blind community had to rely on braille, a limited number of human-narrated books, or having someone read to them if they wanted to enjoy a book. Even just 15 years ago, Bookshare had a modest collection of 20,000 books. Fast forward to today where Bookshare boasts over 509,000 titles, has partnerships with over 800 publishers, and adds over 5,000 new titles each month. Not only are we building up the collection, we’re expanding Bookshare’s reach by partnering with organizations and communities around the globe to ensure all individuals, regardless of where they live, have access to literacy. Members around the world can now access books in 30 languages in over 70 countries.
The Future is Born Accessible
The most exciting part of this momentum is that we’ve only just begun! The path forward is clear: 500,000 accessible ebooks today, one million accessible ebooks tomorrow, and ultimately a world where all books are made accessible from the moment they are created.
Serving more members with more books is a critical part of our mission. That is why our ultimate goal is a Born Accessible future. If a book is born digital, it should be born accessible, period. Every member of society, including the estimated 5% of the population who have difficulty reading traditional print, should have equal access to books as soon as they are published. Benetech will not rest until a Born Accessible future is a reality, and we will continue to work with publishers and the larger accessibility community to achieve this goal.
Meanwhile, we are encouraging U.S. school districts to use their purchasing power to buy accessible to increase the demand for accessible textbooks and curriculum materials that work for all students. When school districts across the country demand Born Accessible materials, publishers will recognize the importance of accessibility. Benetech is dedicated to working with school districts to request accessible materials so publishers respond with the content that schools need.
Collaboration Achieves Scale
I am challenging our community of mentor teachers, parent ambassadors, seniors, librarians, and disability rights advocates to continue to demand equal access to literacy for people who can’t read standard print. To that end, we are collaborating with key public libraries in New York, Pennsylvania, and Georgia, and establishing partnerships with nonprofits such as the Royal National Institute for the Blind in the United Kingdom, The Lighthouse Guild in New York, and All Children Reading in India.
When we leverage our collective strengths, we can scale more efficiently and achieve better results for more people. We are at a tipping point, and I invite you to join us on this momentous journey.
Half a Million and Counting
For those who are curious, two of the books that pushed the counter over 500,000 were:
The Best Bear in All the World – a celebration of the 90th anniversary of Winnie-the-Pooh with new stories commissioned by the Trustees of the Pooh Properties. Available in the U.S. and Canada.
The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics – the #1 New York Times bestseller and inspiration for the PBS documentary “The Boys of ’36.” Published by Penguin Random House and available in the U.S., Canada, and many other countries.
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